It's Too Late For A 'Protest Vote'

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at Reverend Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park in
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at Reverend Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

Each of us voted for a different candidate in Vermont's Democratic presidential primary -- one of us for Bernie Sanders, the other for Hillary Clinton. But today we are on the same page: We're voting for Clinton.

We are afraid that a vote for one of the Independent candidates presents the possibility that Donald Trump will be in the White House. That is a bone-chilling thought. Never, in our experience, have the stakes in a presidential election been so high. We're terrified not only by what Trump says, but by how he thinks. He lives in Tweetland, where 140 characters provide him with the response to every challenge. He likes revenge.

The point of a campaign is to give voters enough information so that they can see what the candidate will do in office. Trump has made it clear, by his stream of lies, that he does not believe in truth-telling, and has no respect for people, other than his family and himself.

His attacks on women, minorities, war heroes, the disabled, and the rule of law, are abhorrent. But in recent days, he has gone one step further -- attacking the democratic process itself. The centerpiece of democratic government is the fair and peaceful transfer of power, as opposed to some dictatorships, like Russia, where the election is, in fact, rigged. Opponents are sometimes jailed, or even assassinated, by the ruling party. Never in this country. To raise the specter of a rigged election is like injecting a deadly cancer into our government.

Many voters share our anxiety about the possibility of a Trump presidency, but they will continue to believe that they can vote for an Independent candidate because they do not trust either major party candidate. And they may think it won't make a difference in the election outcome; they can afford to vote their "conscience." We know for certain that none of the Independent candidates can win. That means that an Independent vote is a throwaway vote.

We remind ourselves that the theme song of "do not trust Hillary" has been orchestrated over the last 30 years, in one form or another, by a single-minded opposition. They have succeeded beyond their Clinton-hating dreams.

It is time to move beyond the distorted trust issue and focus on policy, which has received little attention in this race but it is the centerpiece of the decision of whom to vote for. The Sanders campaign deserves great credit for moving Clinton in a more progressive direction. She will take on the college loan crises and global warming because she knows how to translate policy into action. Her time in the Senate is regarded as highly successful, according to observers like columnist David Brooks of the New York Times. She knows the political process inside out. For those who want to see the Sanders dream move toward reality, Clinton's election is critical. It's time to pause and face reality. If Trump can wreak this much damage in a matter of months, think of what he would do in four years in the White House.

Voting for an Independent may be a protest vote against the status quo. But beware: If too many votes are taken away from the Democratic candidate and thwart her election, it may be a vote against constitutional government. It is a risk we cannot afford to take in this dangerous election year of 2016.

Madeleine M. Kunin is the former governor of Vermont. Peter Welch (D) is a U.S. representative from Vermont.